Road density in northern Wisconsin has doubled during the last 60 years, but forest managers have a time window to fight the non-native plants that often come with construction and overwhelm native plant life, according to new research discussed on Thursday, Aug. 5, at the annual Ecological Society of America conference in Portland, Ore.
"Roads disturb the soil, open the forest canopy and allow more light to reach the ground," explains Todd Hawbaker, a University of Wisconsin-Madison forestry graduate student who presented the findings. "These conditions allow invasive weeds to take hold and displace native plant life."
For his masters thesis, Hawbaker used historic aerial photographs of 17 townships in northern Wisconsin to track road density during the past 60 years. He found that between 1937 and 1999 road density doubled, which was more change than he expected. "However, its probably a safe estimate for wooded areas in other parts of the country as well," he says.
Todd Hawbaker | EurekAlert!
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